Saturday, August 29, 2009

UK Library Association in Paris 1892

The Library Association of the United Kingdom met in Paris, France from September 12 to September 17, 1892. This unusual out-of-the-country meeting was an indicator of the interest in sharing library knowledge and developments internationally. The Library Association was founded in 1877 in London following the formation of the American Library Association in 1876. A number of prominent American librarians attended the the 1877 meeting of the Library Association and were made honorary members of the Association. The members of the Library Association of the United Kingdom received a warm welcome in Paris in 1892. The meeting took place at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and the state and municipal libraries of Paris were available to attendees "for the study and inspection of the methods and systems in use". A reception was hosted by the Cercle de la Librarie at the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Duc d'Aumale held a reception at Chantilly. The Report of the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Library Association of the United Kingdom can be found here. In 2002 the Library Association merged with the Institute of Information Scientists to form the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). The cover (envelope) above was mailed from Paris on September 18, 1892 and was received in London on September 19, 1892. Holloway is a district in north London. Twenty five one franc postage stamps were used to pay the postal rate from Paris to London. This post was the Library Cover Story for August on the Library History Buff website.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Birthday May Hill Arbuthnot

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of May Hill Arbuthnot (1884-1969). Arbuthnot is best known in the library community for her contributions to the field of children's literature. Her legacy is remembered annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) through its May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. Students in children's literature courses in library schools are well acquainted with her book Children and Books which has been published in several editions. This is what Arbuthnot wrote in the Preface to the Third Edition (1964): "Children and Books grew in the first place out of the tantalizing questions adults are always asking: 'What kind of books do children like?' 'How can we get our children to read more and better books?' It grew also out of many observations of children choosing or rejecting books in their homes, nursery schools, libraries and classrooms. It grew from watching artist-teachers using books in such happy and meaningful ways that the children reached new heights of appreciation and taste. It grew from the eager response of college students to the beauty and fun of children's books. It grew from watching parents share their joy in books with their children, making book lovers of them by sheer contagion. And it grew primarily from liking children and books." Wisconsin librarians are very proud of the fact that our own Kathleen (Katie) T. Horning has been chosen to give the 2010 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Libraries on Coins

I have been known to complain about the lack of postage stamps that commemorate libraries and librarians, but coins commemorating libraries are even scarcer. Recently the United States Mint issued a coin to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille. The coin depicts a student reading in a library, and is a great collectible. Go to Mint's website to order the coin. In 2000 the mint issued two commemorative coins on the bicentennial of the Library of Congress. These coins are readily available on eBay. In 1976 the Royal Canadian Mint issued a coin on the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Library of Parliament building. Other coins commemorating library subjects that I am aware of have been privately issued. To see images of libraries on coins click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boston Athenaeum 1848 Ticket

I recently added this 1848 library ticket (card) for the Boston Athenaeum to my collection of librariana. The ticket is signed by Athenaeum Librarian Charles Folsom. Folsom was librarian of the Harvard College Library from 1823 to 1826 and librarian of the Boston Athenaeum from 1845 to 1856. The Boston Athenaeum which was founded in 1807 was a type of membership library which initially required an annual subscription of $10. In the beginning, the Athenaeum emphasized its reading room which was "furnished with all the celebrated political literary, and commercial journals of the day, foreign and domestic." Among its rules and regulations was "no book, pamphlet, or newspaper is ever to be permitted to be taken from the room by subscribers; so that patrons of the institution may be certain at all times of finding any publications which they may have occasion to read or refer to." The Athenaeum changed from an annual subscription library to one which required the purchase of shares which were limited in number to 1,049 by its charter. Purchasers of shares were called "Proprietors". In the ticket above Proprietor Alvan Lamson (who held share # 189) has authorized use of the library by his son Artemas Ward Lamson who inherited his father's share in 1865. Athenaeums in the United States were mostly institutions for the elite and were very different from the free public libraries that evolved in this country in the second half of the 19th century. A good article in the New York Times on the remaining athenaeums including the Boston Athenaeum is located here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Package Libraries

Following up on the theme of reference/information by mail discussed in the previous two entries, here is another approach to this activity. Package libraries were collections of pamphlets, pictures, magazine articles, and newspaper clippings on topics of current interest. These were mailed out (usually by university extension departments) upon request to individuals, women's clubs, debating groups, business people, rural schools, and libraries. Borrowers usually paid the return express charge for the package libraries. Package libraries were an innovation conceived by Frank A. Hutchins while serving as Secretary of the Department of Debating and Public Discussion in the newly created Extension Division of the University of Wisconsin in 1906. More on Wisconsin's package libraries can be found here. The concept of package libraries was implemented in other states including Indiana.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

H. W. Wilson's Cumulative Reference Library

Phebe Swan's Gleaners' Library wasn't the only reference by mail library. The H. W. Wilson Company began publishing the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature in 1901. When Swan developed her reference by mail library in 1902 she relied heavily on this publication and the periodicals which it indexed. At some point either before or after Swan's library started loaning periodical articles by mail, the H. W. Wilson Company launched its Cumulative Reference Library which also loaned periodical articles by mail for a fee. The postal card above is an interesting postal item in that it has been sent through the mail on two occasions. It was initially mailed as an invoice by the H. W. Wilson Company to the Defiance Public Library in Ohio on March 11, 1908. The card was returned to Wilson with a 15 cent payment in a separate envelope. Wilson then mailed the card back to the library as a receipt for payment on March 17, 1908 with a one cent stamp affixed over the original pre-stamped one cent postage indicia.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Phebe Swan's Reference by Mail Lending Library

In researching the 1905 meeting of the Wisconsin Library Association in Beloit I came across a reference to the Gleaner's Library operated by Phebe Swan. A brief article in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin for January, 1905 had this to say about Swan's library: "The Gleaner's library at Beloit has proved so invaluable for many a perplexed librarian that a visit to it will be one of the features of the coming meeting of the Wisconsin Library Association. The unique venture has been so successful that Miss Phebe Swan, the proprietor, now has patrons in all parts of the country. She rents magazine articles, newspaper clippings and copies of articles from standard works of reference, on a required subject, to clubwomen, debaters, authors and students for a very small fee." Mame B. Griffin in an April 8, 1911 article for La Follett's Weekly Magazine provides more background on this unusual library. According to Griffin, Swan started out small but her enterprise was so successful that she bought a fourteen room home in Beloit in 1908 to house her growing business. She employed six workers to assist her in organizing and classifying a hundred different magazines. Swan actively marketed her library with ads in magazines and wide distribution of a flyer about the library's services. The image above is a partial scan of a copy of one of the flyer's that is in the collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The flyer indicates that articles will cost the requester five cents each along with both outgoing and return postage. This is a remarkable story of success by a woman who had an idea for a business model and made it work. I'm not clear about who the "Gleaners" were or how long the library lasted. It's certainly a subject that is worthy of further study. I also posted this article on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website.
More about Phebe Swan
Further digging around in Google has resulted in more information about Phebe Swan. The Semi-Centennial History of the Illinois State Normal University, 1857-1907 which was published in 1907 has the best information. She was a member of the class of 1881 at ISNU, now Illinois State University. She is listed as Lizzie Phebe Swan and her occupation is given as Librarian and Proprietor of a Reference Library in Beloit, Wisconsin. According to the ISNU history, she was an assistant (library ?) at ISNU from 1886 to 1892. She was a student of the Library Department of Armour Institute (predecessor of the University of Illinois Library School), 1893-94 and worked as a librarian at the University of Wisconsin from 1894 to 1902. She became Librarian of the Gleaners' Library in Beloit in 1902, a library which she founded. Handbooks of the American Library Association list her as member number 1,507. She evidently became a life member of the National Education Association in 1897.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Log Cabin Library Update

I wrote an entry earlier this month about Wisconsin's log cabin libraries. Rrecently I became aware of the 100th anniversary of the George C. Thomas Memorial Library building in Fairbanks, Alaska which is also a log building. This building housed the Fairbanks Public Library until it moved into a new building in 1977. It is on the National Register of Historical Places and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1978. It received this designation primarily because the building was the location of a meeting between Athabascan leaders from the lower Tanana River and federal officials on July 5 and 6, 1915 in regard to the threats from a growing white population. According to Tom Alton of the News-Miner newspaper, it was the first discussion of tribal land issues ever held in Interior Alaska. In a Google search, I also discovered that there is a log cabin library in Puxico, MO which houses the Puxico Public Library. The Puxico building is also on the National Register of Historic Places. There is also a library in Chester, CA which is located in log building, although this building is not historic. I would be interested in learning if there are other log cabin libraries. The postcard above is a Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC) of the Wabeno Public Library in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NYPL Postcards

I have discussed the collecting of postcards that depict libraries previously on this blog. As I noted in that post, one collector managed to collect over 25,000 library postcards. There are several other collectors who have put together collections exceeding 10,000 examples. Because of the large number of library postcards it is probably prudent to specialize to some degree. I collect Wisconsin library postcards, ALA WWI postcards, postcards depicting bookmobiles and traveling libraries, and others that just happen to come my way. For some libraries no picture postcard exists, but for many of our larger libraries such as the Library of Congress, the Boston Public Library, and the New York Public Library a large number of examples/varieties have been published over the years. I have a nice collection of New York Public Library postcards. The picture side of the postcard of the New York Public Library shown above which is in my collection is nothing special. What makes the card unusual is the address side of the postcard which shows that it was carried on the Graf Zeppelin air ship in 1928 from New York to Friedrichshafen, Germany before being delivered to Herrn Hartmann in Stuttgart. This make the card far more valuable to a philatelist than a deltiologist, and it is, of course, a nice item for a collector of postal librariana. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Carnegie Library Bed & Breakfasts

Update: The Old Library Inn in Sterling closed its doors as a bed and breakfast in December, 2009. It is being sold as a private residence.
Library buildings built with funds from Andrew Carnegie which are no longer in use as libraries have been converted to a variety of purposes. Two of these buildings have a new life as a bed and breakfast. One of these is located in Sterling, Colorado and the other is in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. On trips this summer I have had the opportunity to stop by and see these two former Carnegie libraries. I have included pictures of the Old Library Inn in Sterling above. Note that in addition to serving as a bed and breakfast, the building also houses a counseling service. Pictures of the Library Hall Bed and Breakfast in Ladysmith, WI are located here. There is also a Carnegie library building in Olean, NY that is used as a restaurant in conjunction with a bed and breakfast

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wisconsin's Log Cabin Libraries

On a recent trip "Up North" in Wisconsin, I had a chance to visit one of Wisconsin's log cabin libraries. In this instance it was the Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin. I have an old postcard of the library and I originally wrote about the library on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website thinking it was the only, or at least the oldest, such library in the state. I was quickly informed that there was another older log cabin library in Wabeno, Wisconsin which is the Wabeno Public Library. I then posted an additional entry on the WLHC website about the Wabeno log cabin library. Both libraries are on the National Register of Historic Places. Both libraries are also on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.
The Wisconsin Historical Society maintains a listing of buildings on the State and National Registers of Historical Places. The entry for the Forest Lodge Library indicates that the library was donated in 1925 by Mary Livingston Griggs, a prominent member of society in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Griggs who also designed the library dedicated it to her mother in memory of their family lodge and estate at nearby Lake Namekagon. A short vacation on Lake Namekagon was the purpose of my recent trip.
The Wisconsin Historical Society entry for the Wabeno log cabin library indicates that it was originally built as the Chicago and North Western Railroad Land Office in 1875. It was evidently turned over to the City of Wabeno to be used as a public library in 1923.